Gravity Sketch founder Oluwaseyi Sosanya is very clearly and deeply a designer above all. But he has had to learn a lot about sales and marketing to drive the company’s growth.

VR may seem novel in the consumer space, but there’s real evidence that B2B has become a natural home for its use, especially in design.

Seyi talks about how their marketing strategy has focused on finding users who can champion the product through their use:

You need to get people on board to help you, help educate you and spread the word about the work you are doing. I find the best way to do this is to get people from your community to become champions. 

We have a concept designer at Honda, James Robbins, who picked up the tool and has mastered it, he regularly shares with the community through YouTube tutorials. I’m so excited by what he does and often engage with him at every opportunity that I get to learn more about the industry and places we can take the product.

He talks about the process and the benefits of the tool for his workflow. I would say that we’ve generated just as many leads through his engagement on the social platforms as  through our heavy handed approach putting out content at the top layer of the marking bucket. 

Read on for our full conversation:

Designing for designers

Design is very competitive, you are always looking at ways to level up and as such, you’re trying new design technology; downloading software, buying new pens and different paper to elevate your style.

If I use something unique at home, I might bring it to work and smash the next design competition. My goal is to bring my design forward and be selected as the design direction for the product.

I’d argue that most B2B softwares could have a kind of B2C component, like B2C2B. Once a user adopts something and finds value in it in daily life, they will inevitably want to bring it into their organization. 

Sales approach

I’ve been the only salesperson for the first few years of the company. We started to grow a sales team; trying a bunch of things I read in books and worked off the advice of peers and advisors.

It all broke down to a few types of selling techniques; “fear selling” like: “Oh, well, you know, if you don’t do this, and then your competitors are gonna do this”   This can work but it feels like a little bit of a desperation play. 

It works in some cases, but we’d rather them come to us and say, “our competitors are using this, I’m scared.” To get this to work, we need the customer to understand the value of our product and what our company is all about, rather than us  pushing our message on them.

Our preferred method of sales is what we like to call a “Trojan horse sale”. Coming into an organization through end users and then letting that metastasize and explode across the business. 

Marketing

We take what I like to call a “sniper approach”. We figure out where users from target companies are posting and go in and focus on that exact person mapping out their work and process as well as the wider team they belong to within the  organization. 

So if we’re going to go after let’s say a Ford, which is one of our customers, we’ll figure out where the key people at Ford are socializing outside of work, what design activities they’re responsible for, and somehow start engaging with them on the daily. We figure out what they’re reading, what they post, how they comment this helps us better understand them and build empathy.

This is a reverse analysis of the person and how they behave in the social space we mirror and match against this. This is not at all scalable, but in the short term we can throw a ton of marketing dollars/ time at it to crop up some key accounts that will drive the annual revenue targets. 

We hand out a lot of software licenses and give access to certain tools to gauge their interest, observing how they use the tool, and identifying a certain threshold at which they see value and we can engage in a commercial capacity. 

The decision makers and procurement teams feel much more comfortable when there are existing users of our product. I once went into a meeting to pitch to a design director, he was a bit skeptical with his arms folded during my pitch. At the end he turns around and asks his team, “what do you guys think about the solution?” About half of his team replied, “we’ve been using it for the past three months.”  

Starting a business in a nascent area

From the exterior, I think it is exciting. But inside it’s really challenging and definitely not for everyone. We’re developing technologies that induce culture shifts, deploying this tech on virtual reality and augmented reality hardware makes this even more challenging because there is no equivalent.

Many users may have only ever tried a cardboard VR experience where you stick your phone in a piece of cardboard formed as VR glasses and you get a pretty surface level experience or they haven’t tried VR at all.

On the flip side the user might have only had an experience with a big VR cave. A lot of automotive customers have these with projections onto walls where they can simulate a scaled vehicle in context, this has been in the industry for many years. 

None of this actually gives the current picture of where the technology is so we end up spending a lot of time educating and helping customers level up their knowledge of the space. This is the hard work, we need to take people to school and they have to want to learn far before they get an opportunity to engage with our actual product. This is why we  need competitors now more than ever. 

We need to sell the idea of 3D and VR before we can even sell the idea of our product. With a growing ecosystem around this hardware and the 3D, space the general knowledge amongst our customers will increase. More competitors will help with the customer’s learning and this will lift everyone up. 

We even encourage the bigger companies that have millions of dollars to market against us, to get involved. It’s really important that we approach it from a holistic perspective and say, Hey, if you guys are gonna adopt this, and this is going to be the new way of working for your team, evaluate all the tools in the landscape so you know what will best suit your needs.

This has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve had; treating competition as more of an evangelization mechanism rather than something to fear.

The benefits of being a European startup

I really like being in Europe because it feels like it’s harder and because it’s harder, you have a little bit of scarcity and I always think scarcity drives innovation. When you have scarcity, you get beaten down so many times that you have to pick yourself up again and go regroup and reframe. Europe creates hardened entrepreneurs. 

There is this thing about how hard European VCs are on startups; in my case, I thrive off that, I like this constant state of learning and levelling up my skills.

Sometimes I see a pitch from someone at a similar stage in their journey as me in the US and I see some clear holes where a London VC would just rip them apart or areas where I can improve my own pitch.

B2B Marketing

It’s done slightly differently and B2B, right? A lot of word of mouth that actually stands up. At the end of the day, these are human to human relationships. I’m now doubling down on word of mouth and especially in some of the industries we’re dealing with, let’s say automotive, it’s very incestuous in a lot of ways, with people move from one organization to another.

You need to get people on board to help you, help educate you and spread the word about the work you are doing. I find the best way to do this is to get people from your community to become champions. 

We have a concept designer at Honda, James Robbins, who picked up the tool and has mastered it, he regularly shares with the community through YouTube tutorials. I’m so excited by what he does and often engage with him at every opportunity that I get to learn more about the industry and places we can take the product.

He talks about the process and the benefits of the tool for his workflow. I would say that we’ve generated just as many leads through his engagement on the social platforms as  through our heavy handed approach putting out content at this top layer of the marking bucket. 

What is unsexy.tech to you?

I want to pick up on B2B being an exciting space to work in and on how B2C maybe gets a better rep. 

In B2C obviously, you’re trying to pitch a product for everyone in the world. But, I think people forget that everyone has a job, and that job is where they spend eight hours of their day. 

In design, eight hours of the day could be spent in a single piece of software; just a few hours of the rest of the day is spent on entertainment, banking apps, social platforms. The time spent in these is fractional compared to the time spent in productivity software. The end product of productively tools often leads to a consumer good which can be experienced by millions.

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About the Author

MaxTB

Max Tatton-Brown is founder and MD of Augur, the entrepreneurial communications partner for "unsexy" tech.

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